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BLACKFACE by Nelson George

BLACKFACE

Reflections on African Americans and the Movies

By Nelson George

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-017120-0
Publisher: HarperCollins

 A textured personal exploration of the last 30 years of African-American cinema. The latest from Village Voice columnist George (Urban Romance, 1992, etc.) finishes his unofficial trilogy on black popular culture from basketball to buppies and film. The most personal of the three, this book is classified by George as ``more a memoir than a critique.'' His youth coincided with the explosion of black film in the 1970s and it is through his experienced vantage point as consumer of, critic of, and participant in the movie industry that he gives his reader this detailed guide. By interspersing time lines that include both history and commentary with an exploration of some of the most important players and themes in black film, George conveys a profound wealth of cinematic and cultural knowledge. He places Sidney Poitier (``his authority as an icon had been eroded by blaxploitation's baaad bold brothers''), Richard Pryor (whose movie Which, he points out, was reviled by white critics but popular with black youth), and Eddie Murphy in the context of American cinema; he analyzes diverse topics such as Motown and the role of class in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. George also gives a chronicle of his own often trying involvement in the movie industry--especially his role as a writer and producer of the rap parody CB4 and the vicissitudes of working with a large studio on a film aimed at black youth. Despite George's thoroughness, there are some gaps in his discussion of gender: He acknowledges filmmaker Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust) for her contribution to black cinema, yet he only hints at the important role women play in the consumption of film. He also gratuitously comments on Janet Jackson's weight while recounting a visit to the set of John Singleton's Poetic Justice. A savvy, revealing insider's view of the struggle for films created and controlled by African-Americans in Hollywood. (b&w photos, not seen)